I’ve never really been a territorial, regional, parochial type. I understand that lines are required on maps and that elected officials are needed to argue the virtues of one slice over another, but I’m happy to leave them to it.
I live in Lancashire, but it could just as easily be Tuscany.
In fact, if I’m honest, I wish it was.
I would happily relinquish my Lancastrian identity to become an honorary Tuscan. I would eat white truffles, drink Chianti, and plonk myself in the central square of Sienna, once a year, in early March, to watch the big bike race (Strade Bianche) explode to conclusion.
Clothes designer (and massive cycling fan) Paul Smith has a house there, I hear. No doubt, as two Brits abroad, we would soon strike up an impromptu friendship and share bike rides through the rolling hills, clad in colourfully striped clothing and happily swapping Fausto Coppi anecdotes.
Not that I dislike the north of England. Or my current cycling companions. Yes, they lack some of his style, but they can just about compete with Mr Smith when it comes to spinning a yarn or two.
Problem is, here in the north of England I’ve ridden all the roads.
I’ve looped every loop.
Scaled every hill.
Kissed every apex.
Bunny hopped every pothole.
And familiarity, as we all know, can breed contempt. Same old roads, clocking up mileage, stop, save, Strava download, add kooky ride name, repeat. Under the same slate grey skies, week after week. Disillusionment can kick in.
The question is, how many kilometres does one have to ride on local roads before a wholesale family relocation is justified simply to open up some new riding?
I reckon I’ve ridden fifty-thousand kilometres in the past ten years. Ninety percent of them local.
Surely an even fifty-K would justify pulling the kids out of school, selling up, learning a new language, figuring out a way to earn a living in Italy, and stalking Paul Smith until he joins me for a pity ride?
Which, by my calculations, means that come 2020 I shall be well within my rights as a cyclist to activate ‘Operation Tuscany.’
Followed in 2030, of course, a further fifty-thousand down the road, by the ‘Nice Proposal,’ or perhaps the ‘Girona Convention.’
By which time I’ll be well into my fifties, sporting skin of deep mahogany and the tough, sinuous calf muscles of a supple Chamois. I’ll be multi-lingual. Fully conversant in the cultural nuances of three European countries. More comfortable in salmon pink chinos, linen shirts, and boat shoes, than even the most open-minded northern male.
Only one thing can derail my plan. Put a stop to my desire to flit across Europe in search of great cycling. Place restrictions on my free movement.
It’s a subject I’ve managed to avoid, on this website, until now. It involves the aforementioned elected officials, is known as Brexit, and it’s currently causing my home country to have a nervous breakdown.
Never mind the effect it might have on ‘Operation Tuscany.’
(Top image: By Roman Harak – Tuscany – San Gimignano, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31637448)